Milwaukee has the highest unemployment rate
. More than half of the working-age African-American males in greater Milwaukee are not employed, according to a university report released Sunday. Milwaukee’s Black male joblessness is second only to Buffalo’s among 35 large metro areas, according to the report from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development. But Milwaukee is second to none in the gap between Black and White joblessness, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The rate of African-American males, ages 16 to 64, without a job in metro Milwaukee jumped to 51.1 percent last year from 46.8 percent in 2006 – probably its highest ever, according to the report’s author. “What we’ve been trying to do in this community to address this issue clearly isn’t working. The numbers continue to get worse, not better,” said Marc Levine, founding director of the economic development center. “And given perilous economic conditions on the horizon, we have every reason to fear that conditions may get even worse.” For every age category, Black males in the four-county Milwaukee area had high jobless rates and big disparities compared with rates for White males and Hispanic males, Levine found. Within racial groups, Milwaukee residents had higher jobless rates than their suburban counterparts. Compared to Milwaukee, the jobless rate for African-Americans in the Buffalo area was 51.4 percent. Metro Detroit ran third, at 50.6 percent. But the unemployment rate for White males in Milwaukee was the third-lowest in the country, at 18.6 percent, creating the biggest gap by far between Blacks and Whites. In his doctoral dissertation for Cardinal Stritch University, Lenard Wells found that Milwaukee-area employers are more likely to hire a White man with a criminal past than a similarly qualified Black man with no record.
Justices hear voting-rights case. The Supreme Court Monday took up a proposed expansion of minorities’ ability to file lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act, the first of two important voting rights cases the court could hear this term, reports The Washington Post. The debate centered on “coalition” political districts, where minority voters make up less than 50 percent of the population but elect minority candidates with support from some White voters. A North Carolina court had ruled, as numerous other courts have, that an important section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that prohibits diluting minority power through redistricting decisions does not apply to such districts. North Carolina officials, acknowledging their state’s history of racial discrimination, are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings, a decision that would allow lawsuits challenging “dilution” of minority voting strength in coalition areas. The court’s decision, while it might not come in time for this November’s election, will affect the redrawing of political lines after the 2010 census and is of particular concern to civil rights leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus. Nearly half of the caucus’s members were elected from coalition districts, and some worry that redistricting could threaten them or future Black candidates if states do not fear lawsuits over reapportionment decisions.
Blacks save less for retirement, survey finds. As Wall Street continues to show historic highs and lows, there is a continuing trend of Blacks saving and investing less than Whites, according to a survey released today. The difference is attributed to various social and cultural reasons, such as getting less exposure to personal finance concepts and advice. The poll by Ariel Investments LLC, a Black-owned investment management firm, and the Charles Schwab Corp. found that 62 percent of the Blacks surveyed own stocks or mutual funds, lagging behind the 82 percent of White respondents who said they do. Executives at Chicago-based Ariel Investments said Black stock ownership remains a weak spot as it has been throughout the 11 years the company has been sponsoring the annual survey. “We certainly haven’t seen the kind of progress that we had hoped for,” said Mellody Hobson, Ariel’s president. One marked change, though: The survey has shown historically that Black investors have expressed a preference for real estate investments over the stock market. This year that preference fell to a new low, with just 39 percent of Blacks labeling real estate the “best investment overall.” Their preference stood at 61 percent at the height of the real estate market in 2004. Blacks are on equal footing with Whites when it comes to accessing and enrolling in their employers’ defined contribution plans, according to the survey, which was based on interviews with Blacks and Whites with household incomes of at least $50,000. About nine in 10 of both Blacks and Whites who are working have access to a plan such as a 401(k), and of those about 90 percent of each group contributes regularly.